“I am returning Senate Bill 131 without my signature.” With those nine words on Oct. 12, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a legislative proposal that would have lifted California’s statute of limitations for a second time in a decade, allowing sex abuse victims to sue private and nonprofit organizations during another one-year grace period.In an unusually detailed three-page message, the governor meticulously laid out his reasons for the veto.“Statutes of limitations reach back to Roman law and were specifically enshrined in the English common law by the Limitations Act of 1623,” he observed. “Ever since, and in every state, including California, various limits have been imposed on the time when lawsuits may still be initiated. Even though valid and profoundly important claims are at stake, all jurisdictions have seen fit to bar actions after a lapse of years.“The reason for such a universal practice is one of fairness. There comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits. With the passage of time, evidence may be lost or disposed of, memories fade and witnesses move away or die.”Gov. Brown also said his veto of SB 131, introduced by Sen. James Beall Jr. (D-San Jose), only applied to private organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, YMCA and Catholic Church. Public schools and other public institutions would be exempt from individual and group lawsuits as they were during the 2003 one-year reversal of the statute. “I can’t believe the legislature decided that victims of abuse by a public entity are somehow less deserving than those who suffered abuse by a private entity,” he maintained. “The children assaulted by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or the teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles are no less worthy because of the nature of the institution they attended.”The governor summed up his reasons by saying the bill was simply too open-ended and unfair, and wouldn’t change a victim’s right to sue a perpetrator or change the existing inequity between private and public entities.“What this bill does do is go back to the only group, i.e., private institutions, that have already been subjected to the unusual ‘one year revival period’ and makes them, and them alone, subject to suit indefinitely. This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair.”The president of the California Catholic Conference, representing the bishops of the state’s 12 dioceses, agreed that SB 131 was unfair not only to the vast majority of sex abuse victims, but also to all private and non-profit organizations. In a statement, Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said this discrimination played a “major role” in prompting the veto.Bishop Wilkerson also stressed that the church’s reaction to the sex abuse scandal had gone “way beyond” settling more than 1,000 cases and paying out $1.2 billion in settlements. “It’s changed how we operate as a church,” he said.The bishop reported that literally millions of children and tens of thousands of church workers had received ‘Safe Environment’ training, where they learned how to keep children safe and how to spot potential sex abuse. In addition, hundreds of thousands of church workers and volunteers with any contact with children were fingerprinted and had their backgrounds checked. “We continue to provide counseling to anyone who comes forward, and we actively work with law enforcement to report allegations immediately, and suspend anybody — clergy or otherwise — suspected of abuse,” said Bishop Wilkerson.“In the end, however, all we know for sure is that there can be no half-measures where victims are concerned, and that the way SB 131 discriminated and treated victims unequally was impossible to be morally or legally justified.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1018/sb131/{/gallery}